TRENTON – Legislation Assemblyman Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak sponsored to boost assistance for “wounded warriors” and their caregivers, an ever-growing demographic that faces unique challenges in the post-9/11 era, was advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday.
Andrzejczak was inspired by a recent RAND Corporation study that included a number of unsettling statistics regarding the care of wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era, most notably that an estimated 1.1 million civilians are providing volunteer care-giving services to wounded veterans. Meanwhile, the study found that 53 percent of post-9/11 voluntary caregivers have no support network.
Andrzejczak also noted that 12 percent of these voluntary caregivers provide more than 40 hours a week of care, which would equate to $3 billion a year in services if the care were not voluntary. Additionally, studies have shown that employee assistance programs for military caregivers have reduced absenteeism by 43 percent and enhanced work productivity.
“Support for military caregivers is not just the right and necessary thing to do – it also makes good economic sense,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), a retired U.S. Army sergeant who lost his leg while serving in Iraq in 2008. “We can’t turn a blind eye to this growing issue when our service men and women have been actively engaged overseas for going on two decades now. While most family members will give selflessly of their time to help a loved one who was wounded in battle, the fact remains that they still need to support themselves, and perhaps other family members, which becomes much harder to do when they have less time to devote to earning a living.”
The bill (A-450), the “Wounded Warrior Caregivers Relief Act,” would provide an income tax credit to family caregivers of certain former armed service members with service-connected disabilities.
The bill sets the refundable qualified veteran care credit at 100 percent of the service member’s disability compensation or $675, whichever is less. To qualify for the credit, a caregiver must:
- Be related to the service member within the third degree;
- Share a residence with the service member for no less than six months of the year;
- Have a gross income that does not exceed $100,000 as a joint filer or $50,000 as a single or separate filer.
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.